St. Canice of Kilkenny, Abbot
(Kenneth, Caimnech, Cainnic, Canicus, Cainnech)
Born at Glengiven (Derry), Ireland, c. 515-527; died at Aghaboe ("the
ox's field") in Laois, c. 599. According to the tradition Saint Kenneth
was the son of a scholar-poet, who became a pupil of
Saint Finnian (f.d. December 12)
at Clonard. He may have gone with
Saints Kieran (f.d. September 9),
Columba (f.d. June 9),
Comgall (f.d. May 11)
on mission to
Saint Mobhi (f.d. October 12)
at Glasnevin, preached for a
time in Ireland. When plague scattered the community, Canice became a monk
Saint Cadoc (f.d. September 25)
at Llancarfan, Wales, where he was
Canice was a close friend of Saint Columba whom he accompanied on a
visit to King Brude of the Picts at Inverness, because he was of the
Pictish race and spoke the language. Thus, he assisted Columba in
establishing his base at Iona, where there was once a Killchainnech. He
served similarly in introducing Comgall at Lismore.
For a time Canice worked in the Western Isles and on the mainland of
Scotland, where he is known as Kenneth. A number of place names and old
dedications confirm his presence in Scotland, notably the islet called
Inch Kenneth in Mull. He founded churches on Tiree, South Uist, Coll,
and Kintyre. He was the first person to build a church at Saint
Andrews, then known as Rigmond. As Aengus records, "Aghaboe was his
principal church and he has a Recles (monastery) at Kill-Rigmonaig in
Alba." The Irish abbot of Rigmond, Riaghail or Regulus, whom some
believe to have been a 4th-century Greek monk named Rule, carried the
relics of the apostle Saint Andrew (f.d. November 30) to Rigmond. But
the relics were not acquired until 736, at which time the name was
changed to Saint Andrews.
When he returned to Ireland he founded the monastery of Aghaboe in
Ossory, c. 577. Other foundations included Drumahose in Derry and
Cluain Bronig in Offaly. Saint Canice is said also to have had a
foundation at Kilkenny. That city is named after Canice, who was the
titular patron of the Brethren of Saint Kenneth.
Canice copied a manuscript of the four Gospels. He was known as an
effective preachers, when, according to the saint, he was divinely
illuminated by God.
Canice is one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland and patron of Kennoway
Like other Irish monastics saints, Canice periodically lived as a hermit
and enjoyed the close communion such a life afforded with nature.
Through the intercessions of St Kenneth
and of all the Saints of Ireland,
Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us!
These three short tales tell us a little about the legends of Saint
Kenneth/Canice, called Cainnic by Plummer:
"One Sunday Saint Cainnic was lodged on the island of Inish Ubdain; but
the mice of that place gnawed his shoes and nibbled them and ate them.
And the holy man, when he was aware of their naughtiness, cursed the
mice, and cast them out of that island forever. For all the mice,
assembling in a body, according to the word of Saint Cainnic,
precipitated themselves into the depths of the sea, and mice on that
island have not been seen unto this day"
"Another time Saint Cainnic was lodged one Sunday on another island,
called En inish, the Isle of Birds. But the birds on it
were garrulous and extremely loquacious, and gave annoyance to the saint
of God. So he rebuked their loquacity, and they obeyed his command, for
all the birds got together and set their breasts against the ground, and
held their peace, and until the hour of Matins on Monday morning they
stayed without a movement, and without a sound, until the Saint released
them by his word"
"Another time when Saint Cainnic was in hidden retreat in solitude, a
stag came to him, and would hold the book steady on his antlers as the
Saint read on. But one day, startled by a sudden fear, he dashed into
flight without the abbot's leave, carrying the book still open on his
antlers; but thereafter, like a fugitive monk to his abbot, the book
safe and unharmed still open on his antlers, he returned"
Troparion of St Cainnech
In honour thou dost rank with Ireland's Enlightener,
O Lover of the Desert, Composer of sacred verse,
Father of Monks and Founder of Monasteries, O Father Cainnech.
Labouring for Christ, both in thy native land and in Scotland,
thou art a tireless intercessor for the
faithful. Pray for us who hymn thee, that despite our frailty we may be
granted great mercy.
Icon of Saint Kenneth:
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Page last updated: 21 January 2009
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